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Roughnecks running back James Butler is taking advantage of XFL opportunity

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 08: James Butler #28 of the Houston Roughnecks celebrates during the XFL game against the LA Wildcats at TDECU Stadium on February 8, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas Campbell/XFL via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 08: James Butler #28 of the Houston Roughnecks celebrates during the XFL game against the LA Wildcats at TDECU Stadium on February 8, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas Campbell/XFL via Getty Images) (2020 XFL)

HOUSTON – The Houston Roughnecks are 3-0 and the darlings of the new XFL League.

The only undefeated team in the league heads to Dallas over the weekend to take on the newly-minted rival Renegades.

Through three weeks, quarterback P.J. Walker has become the face of the league, while wide receiver Cam Phillips has won two of the league's three "Star of the Week" awards.

However, those aren't the only offensive players who stand out on the Roughnecks.

Running back James Butler took an opportunity in Week 1 and turned it into a regular role.

Rising star

When the Roughnecks released the team’s initial training camp roster, Butler wasn’t on it.

Over that time, he joined the team and worked his way to No. 3 on the running back depth chart and No. 1 at kick returner.

He got an opportunity in Week 1, partially due to injuries.

Butler returned one of the best kick returns in the league during the first week, plus caught a screen pass for a touchdown. With that, he cemented his role as the team's top back.

Well-traveled running back

Butler has been around the transaction block. He went undrafted in 2018 before signing and re-signing with the Raiders pre-season team and practice squad a half-dozen times.

The Raiders brought Butler back in 2019, before cutting him again. Butler then had a workout with the Green Bay Packers, before finally settling on playing in the XFL.

The league has given players like Butler and Walker the opportunity to show NFL teams game tape they might not otherwise get in limited pre-season action.

Butler also bounced around in college. He grew up in Illinois but went all the way to Nevada for college. He played three successful seasons with the Wolfpack, then transferred back to the Midwest. He finished his collegiate career with Iowa in 2017. Butler’s college highlights included two 1,300+ yard season with the Wolfpack.

High praise

Butler has snatched not only the starting job but also the trust of head coach June Jones.

"Pound for pound, he's about as strong and tough of a runner and blocker that I've had," he said. "He's a legitimate player. I think he'll have a shot to go to the next level."

Butler is currently fourth in the league in rushing yards with 130, playing in an offense that prioritizes passing.